Chicago Park District 2018 Budget Proposal Expands Programming for Residents

Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly today released recommendations for the Chicago Park District's 2018 budget to expand existing programming and create new opportunities that keep residents of all ages and abilities active and engaged. 
Highlights of the proposal include:
  • Additional designated Special Recreation sites to meet the increasing demand for programming and pilot programs for adaptive sports, cultural and social opportunities in various communities; 
  • New aquatic programs, including triathlon training and advanced skill adult fitness;
  • Increased outdoor and environmental education programs through the Nature Play Space Initiative; and
  • Advancing the Building on Burnham initiative by growing natural area acreage toward our goal of 2,020 acres by 2020.
The 2018 budget is balanced at $462.3 million. To do that, the Chicago Park District pursued cost savings and efficiencies in excess of $9.1 million. Among those are personnel efficiencies that will reduce total full time equivalent positions, strategic changes in healthcare, technology efficiencies and program efficiencies. Despite the decrease in full time equivalent positions, we will expand and enhance programming by regularly evaluating the program offerings, allocating resources in the most efficient manner possible and training staff to meet the needs of the city’s 77 communities.
The Park District will benefit from $2.6 million in capture of the value of new property and expiring/terminating TIF districts, which provides additional resources to the District without increasing the tax burden on residents. The District has proposed a nominal tax increase of $6.48 for the average homeowner, the District's first in four years, to help fund the Special Recreation programming expansion. 
The District's downward sloping debt profile and payoff of aquarium & museum bonds will also positively impact its bottom line by lessening debt service payments in the year to come.  The Chicago Park District credit rating has remained consistent over the previous year with S&P Global Ratings rating the District’s debt at AA+, Fitch at AA- and Kroll at AA, all with stable outlook.
As in years past, the Chicago Park District budget will allocate $42 million towards supporting some of the city's finest cultural institutions such as Lincoln Park Zoo; The Grant Park Music Festival, Museums in the Parks, which is inclusive of 10 museums and an aquarium; Afterschool Matters the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance and Neighborspace.   
The Chicago Park District will remain the best deal in town, with fees at a fraction of its competitors. In 2018, the average six-week camp will cost $270 or $1.55 per hour , a fraction of the cost of private camps. Chicago Park District camps will continue to provide high-quality, engaging programming for children. Families in need can continue to access nearly $3 million in financial assistance thanks to fee waivers and existing program discount opportunities, such as multiple family registration discounts, active military discount, financial assistance/hardship discounts and free youth golf.
The Chicago Park District will continue to work with existing strong partners including sister agencies like CPS and CHA and non-profit organizations like Special Children’s Charities and Lurie Children’s Hospital. Parks will also cultivate new partnerships to expand the number of individuals served, and offer new programming and event opportunities at parks citywide. 
The Chicago Park District proposed budget will be available for viewing online at
Residents may offer comments and suggestions online or at a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6 at 541 N. Fairbanks in the 8th floor board room.

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